“Mental health problems don’t define who you are. They are something you experience. You walk in the rain, and you feel the rain, but you are not the rain.” — Matt Haig

Tia Bell is an agent for change.

And when it comes to homeless young people and their mental health, she is often the one handing out life vests when they are sinking.

Tia is the Manager for Clinical Services at our agency.

She oversees programs that support mental health for our youth.

“I want to normalize mental health and provide young people with safe spaces and containers to process the stuff they need, to develop the skills they need so they don’t have to come back. So, they can go out into the world and do the things they dream of and have passions for.”

No one dreams of being homeless.

Especially not the youngest of Larkin Street clients.

Because living on the streets is traumatic.

Not knowing where to sleep safely, not knowing where your next meal will come from, not having a job, not having an education; all of this impacts mental health.

Tia looks at the bigger picture.

“These are young people. These are your children. These are not people to step over in the street. These are people. They have futures just like they have pasts and they’re worthy of time, attention, and love.”

Being homeless, often times, brings with it shame, guilt, depression, suicidal thoughts, and sadness.

That’s why Tia and her team address these issues, head on, through therapy, counseling, time, and patience.

“I want to normalize people’s experiences with mental health because every single person experiences something somewhere with our mental health. It’s not always going to be as horrific as this. Somehow, someway it can get better.”

And it does get better for many who we serve.

We are able to treat roughly two hundred young people a year.

There is one person who really stands out for Tia.

She worked with her for two years and supported her through drug use, anxiety and depression.

And now, this young woman is attending university, has a job, and is living independently in Oakland.

“Knowing I can use my education and personal experiences, my life experiences, to help these youth inform their journey, their growth, their process is so rewarding.”

For Tia, helping people find stable mental health and wellness is a calling.

It’s also a component for success.